Growing interest in artificial intelligence in public employment services
European public employment services are currently making little or no use of artificial intelligence, as reported in a recent survey by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Very few national AI strategies, if any, discuss the use of artificial intelligence as a tool for improving employment services. However, several plans and solutions are already in the pipeline.
“Finland has a reputation for being a leader in using AI. But at the same time, in employment services, one of the biggest bottlenecks is that there is a mismatch between jobseekers and vacancies. To me, the findings of the survey are very interesting. And I hope they will be put into good use in Finland and at the EU level,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.
The findings show that it is widely recognised that artificial intelligence and the potential it offers are important. The survey also indicates that while a growing interest in artificial intelligence and its applications is evident in public employment services, the use of AI is still in its infancy. Very few EU Member States have a strategic plan for using artificial intelligence in public employment services. Services involving the matching of vacancies with jobseekers and those involving employee profiling are the most advanced. In Belgium, for example, artificial intelligence is used in the detailed profiling of private customers and for preparing employment forecasts.
“As the findings indicate, artificial intelligence is able to improve the efficiency of services. We could be using AI in a number of ways, such as to better match vacancies and jobseekers, and to identify skills and competences. We need to share the findings of the survey and keep AI on the agenda going forward. But we should use it as complementary support to enhance individual services where human touch is key,” says Johannes Kopf, Chair of the PES Network.
The survey indicates that almost all EU Member States have plans to utilise artificial intelligence to some degree and to promote its use both in employment services and in society in general.
In employment services, private service providers are the most advanced users of AI; they use automated recruitment processes, software matching employees with employers, and AI-based virtual assistants. For example, LinkedIn uses artificial intelligence to match jobs with jobseekers by alerting users of jobs that match their profile.
The survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, was published at the 12th Board Meeting of the European Network of Public Employment Services (PES). The meeting is part of the official programme of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Aiming to improve the efficiency of public employment services
The objective of the European Network of Public Employment Services (PES Network) is to maximise the efficiency of public employment services particularly through benchlearning, a combination of performance comparison and mutual learning. By using this approach, the public employment services in different countries are able to systematically learn from each other and share best practices is areas such as performance management, efficiency and effectiveness, digitalisation, and operational and process improvement.
The PES Network also contributes to implementing EU policy initiatives such as the Council recommendation on the Youth Guarantee and Long-term Unemployment. Cooperation with the Employment Committee also with regard to the European Semester is being intensified, as the Network offers support to PES Member States implementing country-specific recommendations regarding public employment services to promote employment and growth.
The PES Network is governed by the Board, which consists of the directors of the Member States’ employment services. The 12th Board meeting was held in Helsinki on 12-13 December. The meeting focused on ways of responding to the labour market transformation, continuous learning and the use of artificial intelligence in employment services. The Network and this meeting has received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation "EaSI" (2014-2020) (http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi)
During 2020–2021, Finland will provide European citizens with free access to a successful online course, the Elements of AI. The course will be made available in all the official EU languages. This initiative by the Finnish Presidency aims to respond to the challenges posed by the transformation of work and to reinforce the digital leadership of the EU.
Jenni Karjalainen, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. 040 751 5496
Tiina Oinonen, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. 0295 049 29
Mikko Kuoppala, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. 0295 049 245